Drive 55?

There are probably good reasons to think that reducing the speed limit to 55 makes sense as gas prices continue to soar. Still, while I don't agree with all of the reasoning in this essay (particularly the notion that "liberal and green do-gooders" are standing in the way of our God-given right to pillage the planet's natural resources), I do agree with Sammy Hagar:

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    65 bad, 55 better, so 0 must be bestest! (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by jerry on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 03:11:56 AM EST
    My problem with 55 is that, well, in all my Physics studies, I never came across any physical principles that describe to me why it's 55, and not 45, or not 75, or not ...?

    I can't drive 55, and I think that if we were actually serious about finding the best speed to drive at, it wouldn't come from Congress AFTER the fact, but ahead of time, much like CAFE standards.

    So instead of demanding an average fleet gas mileage of say, 35mpg, it would be a gas mileage measured at a standard speed.  By 2010 you need a fleet average of 35 measured at 55, but by 2012 it has to be 40mpg measured at 60 and by 2014 it's 45mpg measured at 65.

    I understand that 55 saves GAS and LIVES.  Turns out 0 saves more gas and more lives, so logically we should all be driving 0.

    (If the referenced essay is idiotic, well that's what happens when you let economists play at science.)

    It's an engineering thing. (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 06:30:08 AM EST
    When the engineers designed the vehicle you drive, they designed for a certain set of conditions.  Now they could have created a light weight, super sleek, incredibly aerodynamic vehicle that got great gas mileage at high speeds on perfectly smooth, level roads that could carry one passenger and three bags of groceries.

    But instead they designed a car that could carry four or more passengers, a reasonable amount of cargo and that operates decently between 0 mph and 70 mph with a fairly narrow range of fuel efficient operation.  It basically boils down to weight and wind resistance.  Your fuel efficiency floor is determined by the weight of the vehicle and the engine.  Heavier vehicles require more energy to move - simple enough.  Your top fuel efficiency is determined by the previous two and wind resistance.  It's Newton's Third Law -

    For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
     Your vehicle pushes against the air and the air pushes back.  The faster you go, the harder you push, the more energy it takes.  If you drove in a vaccuum(nifty trick!) then your fuel efficiency would be the same at 5 mph as it is at 100 mph.

    You could attempt to convince the car makers that a market exists for small, lightweight, incredibly aerodynamic cars that have fuel efficient engines.  But I don't see it because peed demons usually love overpowered cars, not underpowered ones.  

    And remember - every watt of electricity you use from your car lowers the fuel efficiency.  Someone posted a diary about slogging through a Boston rush hour snowstorm - while their passenger had a laptop plugged in.  They talked about getting uncomfortably low on fuel.  No kidding.  


    But why 55, and why not 45? (none / 0) (#34)
    by jerry on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 11:50:38 AM EST
    Efficiency of the vehicle probably requires knowledge of:
    induced drag, form drag, interference drag, skin friction, rolling resistance of the tires, the footprint of the tires and many other elements all of which can be designed, many of which are functions of the speed of the vehicle, and many of those functions are curves, squares, inverse squares, and sometimes even lines.

    Add em up and you probably get a nicely complex shape for the efficiency of that car.

    When we went to 55 originally, I can believe that 55 seemed like a good place on the car's efficiency curve, and better than 65.

    But three decades later, and knowing that efficicency is
    f(shape of car, shape of tires, kind of gas, kind of engine) than I would be surprised that 55 is once again THE best point, and I would be shocked if it were the best point for ALL cars.

    My guess is that 55 is a political point and not an engineering point.

    I would think that 45 is a much more efficient speed than 55.  And that 35 is a much more efficient speed yet.  And that 0 is the most fuel efficient speed yet, so why not 0?

    I see nothing in our laws (legislated or nature) that says that engineers had to optimize for 55, and so I doubt that Congress was able to pull 55 out of the air and  say, yep, that's the best speed.

    And as I've indicated there are enough factors involved, that I think that if Congress wanted to, they could shove that most efficent speed around (within limits.)


    Nonsense! (none / 0) (#57)
    by robrecht on Fri Jul 25, 2008 at 02:44:04 PM EST
    If you drove in a vaccuum(nifty trick!) then your fuel efficiency would be the same at 5 mph as it is at 100 mph.

    This would only be true if wind resistance were the only factor limiting fuel efficiency.  But, of course, it's not.  You need to look at the torque curve of the engine, and find the point of maximum engine efficiency with the tallest gearing that will allow the engine to cruise smoothly.  Traditionally, it's usually been the highest gear at the lowest rpm above the engine lugging, but with modern engine computers I've heard this may not always been the case.  So I've heard, but I don't necessarily believe it.


    If (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by tek on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 07:52:21 AM EST
    all electric vehicles, like NEVs--which are already abundant--would be licensed for use on in-town roads, it would save millions of gallons of gas.  There's no real need to drive at top speeds through town.

    We live in a town where NEVs are legal on the local streets.  They are also legal in town in New Harmony, IN.  The residents petitioned the legislature to make them legal so the historic properties in town would not suffer so much pollutants.

    It's a workable idea.  Then we need electric bullet trains like Europe has.  But mostly, Americans need to accept that we all have to make changes in the way we live and stop over-consuming.

    Like this "Zenn" ? (none / 0) (#38)
    by DFLer on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 12:47:32 PM EST
    short-haul, plug-in vehicle:


    According to this article:

    Minnesota law permits small electric vehicles with limited speed and range to operate on roads where the speed limit is no more than 35 miles per hour.

    Anybody driving 55... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by kdog on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:04:47 AM EST
    on the Long Island Expressway is a hazard...causing people to change lanes to whiz by them.  Thank the sun god only one out of a thousand people actually obeys the speed limit.

    70-75 mph is like the unwritten speed limit...70 and under you're good when you drive by the tyrannical speed traps, over 75 odds are you're getting stopped.  70-75 is the grey area where it all depends on the mood of John Law manning the speed trap.

    55 has been done; re: Nixon (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by wurman on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:26:47 AM EST
    It's an engineering & physics nightmare.  All forms of trucks used for moving goods would have to be totally re-designed.  During the old-time 55, some big trucks had to run in a lower gear in order to maintain 55, which increased fuel usage, until some retro-fits were completed.  Over time, modifications were made, but then the new speed limits came in & all the commercial vehicles had to "switch gears" & revert back in another long-term development cycle.

    The gross vehicle weight rating, transmission & differential gear ratios, engine size & power, number of tires & the sizes, operating environment (flatland vs. Rocky Mts & warm South vs. cold North) are just some of the variables.

    For Congress to mandate standards would require another stupid, energy-wasting, capital intensive conversion.  And it would be backwards to a bad idea that actually failed.

    STOP IT.

    The market will provide. (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:08:18 AM EST
    Truckers are already trying strategies to cut back on fuel consumption.  No idling at truck stop is one.  Some states prove electric hookups to do that.    Some truckers even [gasp!] drive slower because they want to make as much money as they can.

    I keep vacillating between government mandates and $10/gallon gasoline.  There will shrieks of outrage and hysterical caterwauling no matter what.  Me?  My husband and I both drive our old Saturn SL2s.  30-35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway - driving 55-60.  I wonder how much money we've saved in the past decade?


    We have a Smart car. At 50 mpg (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by hairspray on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:32:19 AM EST
    on the highway and 45-47 around town it is a dream.  It has a Mercedes motor (made in France) and a governor that screams if we go over 80.  Eighty miles/hr is not safe for the car, frankly.  However, highway driving at 60 is very comfortable as long as it is not ice and snow.  Definitely a warm weather vehicle.  The parking is the best part.

    We've driven (none / 0) (#32)
    by badger on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 11:11:53 AM EST
    a Ford Festiva (made by Kia) that got around 50MPG highway. At over 80MPH the speedometer ran out of numbers but the needle kept going (verified when MT was still "reasonable and prudent"). We'd still have it but its low ground clearance on our road meant we were continually fixing the exhaust system.

    We also had a few Ford Fiestas (made by Ford 30 years ago) that got over 40MPG highway. Fiestas are still sold in the UK and the most efficient models now are rated over 60MPG. They also had very good acceleration. I got my last speeding ticket in a Fiesta.

    The smaller Honda Civics and similar cars probably did as well. The tech to build efficient cars with standard engines has been around for 35 years.


    Yes and I had a Nissan Pulsar (none / 0) (#47)
    by hairspray on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 03:20:13 PM EST
    in the early '80's that got 45 m/pg.  I had it for 4 years and it was wonderful.  Unfortunately the high mileage cars didn't last much beyond the '80's.  The Nissan was a nice looking car too, not as dorky as the Smart car. I thank Ronald Reagan for the pickle we are in now.

    ten bucks a gallon? (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:14:10 AM EST
    I hope you're not serious...or planning to volunteer at your local soup kitchen if any such minimum price mandate ever passed.

    10 bucks a gallon would render half my neighborhood destitute....$4.35 is taking enough food off the table as it is.


    Then lower the speed limit. (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:35:14 AM EST
    People will either lower consumption because they are forced to by law or by economics.  I've been happily driving 55 mph for my entire life.  I've never considered it some painful sacrifice either.  Having kids crimped my style more than anything.  Can't just hop onto the bike and zip off to the coffee shop anymore.   That was freedom!

    Economics is working.... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by kdog on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 11:02:20 AM EST
    if I remember correctly usage is down the last month or so because of the price.

    No need to raise it artificially than it already has risen...artificially.

    Curious...where do you live were you never drive above 55, as I said above driving 55 will get you killed in NY.


    s/b... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 11:02:57 AM EST
    raise it artificially more than it already has risen.

    I call BS (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by eric on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:08:45 AM EST
    All forms of trucks used for moving goods would have to be totally re-designed.  During the old-time 55, some big trucks had to run in a lower gear in order to maintain 55, which increased fuel usage, until some retro-fits were completed.

    Are you seriously arguing that trucks can't run in high gear at 55?  What kind of trucks?  It isn't believable.

    BTW, Trucks are ALREADY limited to 55 in many places.  LINK


    You should read more widely, then (none / 0) (#51)
    by wurman on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 06:21:32 PM EST
    A set of triple trailers on an interstate at 100,000 gross weight pulled by a 400 horsepower engine turning a 10-speed RoadRanger through a stock differential will have an rpm of about 1400 to run 65 mph.  At 55 mph the driver cannot stay in 10th & has to drop into 9th at about 1600 rpm.

    In the Far West, a set of Rocky Mountain doubles at 105,500 gross with a 600 horsepower engine twisting a 15-speed into a highway differential would probably hold about 1400 rpm at 65 mph, drop into 14th gear at 1450 for 60 mph, & hold 1500 in 13th gear at 55 mph.  If the driver tried to hold 15th gear at 55 mph, the rpm would be about 1050 which is a "dead lug" (see bad things below).

    Depending on the engine & the set-up, most big trucks turn between 1350 as a low lugging point to about 2100 as the "up-against-the-governor" high shifting point.  The sweet spot is usually from 1450 to 1550 for optimum fuel consumption & power delivery to the drive tires.  Caterpillar engines will lug down lower to 1000, Cummins in the middle at 1200, & most Detroits up-shift at about 1300.  Volvo & Mack have different shift points at about 1250 & 1350.  [All average guesses for run-of-the-mill applications.]  

    When a loaded big truck slows down it has to shift down to maintain the operational rpm for that gear & axle ratio, gross weight, & terrain.

    Bad things happen otherwise.  Drivers who lug the engine cause the main bearings to hammer, the computer adjusts to a richer mixture so the exhaust smokes & the valves carbon up, the engine overheats & creates cooling system problems at the same time as the clutch, drive trains, & axles increase wear exponentially.  Drivers who over-rev the engine have excessive fuel use, the computer leans the mixture & the valves burn, the exhaust fumes get too hot for the manifold & the stack so the metal corrodes, & the camshaft, rod bearings, rings, & turbocharger wear out far more quickly from turning too fast too often without enough resistance.

    Take a 300 horsepower tractor that normally pulls a 48-ft single trailer in the MidWest & put it in front of a set of Colorado triple trailers & that engine will burn out pronto--if the clutch doesn't shred itself first.

    It's a system.  Components are designed to function in specific environments. Change a factor & the system becomes inefficient, often to the point of unworkable.  The trucking industry & all other major truck users spent 10s of millions of dollars converting from 1974 to about 1980.  When the rules changed in '95, they spent $100s of millions to step back up--& also met new, extreme EPA requirements at the same time.

    And, yes, in the states where the truck speed limits are 55 or 60 or 65 the truck buyer establishes specifications for components to meet those requirements.  And many independent owner-operators won't enter CA because the low-sulfur fuel damages their engines.  Etcetera!

    Finally, take your 5-speed auto & put 6 suitcases in the trunk, a cartop carrier on the roof, seat five or six 200 pound humans in it, & head out to your favorite interstate.  See how well you can hold 55 mph in 5th gear.  [Check your tire inflation before trying this experiment!]


    Kinda like Mona Lisa Vito:

    Vinny Gambini: How could you be so sure?

    Mona Lisa Vito: Because there is no way that these tire marks were made by a '64 Buick Skylark convertible. These marks were made by a 1963 Pontiac Tempest.

    Mona Lisa Vito: The car that made these two, equal-length tire marks had positraction. You can't make those marks without positraction, which was not available on the '64 Buick Skylark!

    Vinny Gambini: And why not? What is positraction?

    Mona Lisa Vito: It's a limited slip differential which distributes power equally to both the right and left tires. The '64 Skylark had a regular differential, which, anyone who's been stuck in the mud in Alabama knows, you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing.
    [the jury members nod, with murmurs of "yes," "that's right," etc]

    Vinny Gambini: Is that it?

    Mona Lisa Vito: No, there's more! You see? When the left tire mark goes up on the curb and the right tire mark stays flat and even? Well, the '64 Skylark had a solid rear axle, so when the left tire would go up on the curb, the right tire would tilt out and ride along its edge. But that didn't happen here. The tire mark stayed flat and even. This car had an independent rear suspension. Now, in the '60's, there were only two other cars made in America that had positraction, and independent rear suspension, and enough power to make these marks. One was the Corvette, which could never be confused with the Buick Skylark. The other had the same body length, height, width, weight, wheel base, and wheel track as the '64 Skylark, and that was the 1963 Pontiac Tempest.

    Actually, I favor a 60 mph limit (none / 0) (#55)
    by wurman on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 07:23:51 PM EST
    The American Trucking Assoc. recently "go-ed" along with the idea of micro-chip limiters in commercial vehichles to keep them under 65 mph, no matter what the conditions.

    If ALL trucks were spec'd to run at about 60 in a freeway/thruway environment & about 40 in city or suburban operations, then the range of all the variables would be quite manageable.

    There are some extreme conditions that would need exceptions, such as specialized over-gross & over-sized haulers; i.e., ya' needs lots a tires to haul a 100-ft bridge section, which increases friction, so the power unit needs beaucoup horsepower, & no "limiter," in order to drag all that rubber over the slab.
    -Truck fuel efficiency is more a function of gross weight than speed.
    -The big gain in slowing trucks down is eliminating pollution--NOX & S.

    The real problem in USA fuel use is actually commuter drivers.  Any serious effort at reducing fuel consumption must be aimed at cars & pickups.  If we could get a million solo males out of F-150 pickups, the gain would be . . . !

    Generally, cars are so poorly spec'd for any type of operational efficiency that it's criminal.  And pickup trucks are far worse.

    CAFE standards anyone???


    Why is it (5.00 / 3) (#11)
    by misspeach2008 on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:42:35 AM EST
    that the two things that seem to get Americans all worked up are driving more slowly and switching to the metric system? (BTW, both are associated with the Carter administration.) The solution to rush hour traffic is not driving faster. It's more and better public transportation, and people being able to live closer to where they work.

    I blame James Dean! (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:21:23 AM EST
    There's an entire mythos built up around the freedom of the automobile.  Naturally enough, the auto industry has helped to create and perpetuate it.  Driving is active!  Vroom, vroom!  Even if all you do is drive the exact same route at the exact same time five days out of the week.  (Which is exactly what mass transit does...)

    The whole housing and credit crunch is related.  Anyone seen a lot of high density housing developments going up in urban areas?  Most of them are probably new sprawlburbs.  So now people are stuck in houses they can barely afford, paying more for that long commute every day and holding on to their jobs for dear life.

    And you can thank your government for helping to make it all possible.  What's worse - driving 55mph and living in a smaller house or a world wide credit crunch that sinks the economy?  I know what my answer is.  Too bad the best pedestrian neighborhoods were priced to the moon by people who had the same exact thought.  So did they build more pedestrian neighborhoods?  No.  Just more ticky tacky sprawlburbs.


    Ask yourself this (none / 0) (#31)
    by bocajeff on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 11:07:54 AM EST
    Why do people WANT to move out to the suburbs and exurbs and incur the extra expenses involved? Obviously people are willing to make the tradeoff and are convinced that their quality of life is better that way...You know, maybe it is.

    Misguided and ignorant (none / 0) (#41)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 02:23:12 PM EST

    Those folks are obviously misguided and ignorant and need to listen to the wise urban planners that know what is best for them.  A big yard and a garden is so 1950's.  

    Some of them are (none / 0) (#52)
    by tree on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 06:37:31 PM EST
    simply priced out of the close-in market. In LA some people live farther away from work because they can't afford to live close-in. Even downtown has now been gentrified and the poorer folk have to move out.

    Restrictive zoning (none / 0) (#56)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 08:07:15 PM EST
    keeps the riff raff out of town through higher land prices.

    I've seen these places. (none / 0) (#53)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 06:46:34 PM EST
    And I've seen the pedestrian friendly neighborhoods (post WWII builds, Boomer builds if you will) that have great access to mass transit.  The reason those neighborhoods demand such a high price is because there aren't enough of them.  Low supply, high demand.  

    The car-dependent neighborhoods are cheaper per square foot of real estate, but cost more in terms of transportation.  There will be a "market correction" as the cost of fuel rises and as the cost of heating and cooling rises.  People talk about "lower standard of living".  Gonna happen anyway.  We'll pay more for energy and have less left over for other things.  The bigger the house, the bigger the car, the longer the commute, the more will go to energy and the less we'll have for other things.  Simple math.  


    I have been driving (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by eric on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:14:14 AM EST
    to and from work at 55 lately, and have found that it does increase my mileage significantly.  I also find it relaxing to drive at a reasonable speed and not have to be looking out for cops.  Highly recommended.

    Law abiding citizens (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:30:46 AM EST
    are always welcome!

    Speak for yourself.... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:59:31 AM EST
    just kidding:)

    As for me, I don't think I've ever used relaxing and driving in the same sentence.


    Driving isn't for me. (none / 0) (#44)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 02:32:43 PM EST
    My favorite time to drive is about 3AM to 6AM.  Peaceful, quiet, sane.

    The hands down best time to drive is Christmas morning 3am to 7am.  


    I don't know about that (none / 0) (#46)
    by TChris on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 03:19:58 PM EST
    Don't you have to be careful not to run over Santa Claus?

    It's Santa's driving (none / 0) (#50)
    by misspeach2008 on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 05:40:33 PM EST
    55 is not more fuel efficient in all cars (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Exeter on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 11:07:06 AM EST
    Generally speaking it depends on the weight and shape of the vehicle. A big heavy, box-shaped hummer will get far better mpg at 55 than 65. But many lower cars actually get better mpg at 65 than at 55.  

    Answer? Make trucks, SUV, ect drive 55 and others 65. That will have a two-fold increase in lighter weight cars and it won't increase fuel consumption by having lighter weight cars slow down.

    Sorry, that's just wrong (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by JayBat on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 03:55:51 PM EST
    Aerodynamic drag goes like the square of velocity, and so power demand from the engine goes like the cube of velocity.

    As soon as you're in top gear and going fast enough for aerodynamic drag to dominate all the friction losses (40-50 MPH), faster = lower mileage.

    Even a Corvette ZR-1 can loaf in 6th gear at 55! Not that we should be tailoring our energy policy around Corvettes. :-)



    I think the solution (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 11:22:01 AM EST
    is not to drive.  Provide tax breaks to companies that allow employees to work from home 1-2 days or more per week.  Not only would this save gas, it would save roads and help with greenhouse gases.

    would make a significant long-term difference in our nation's or the globe's energy metrics is like saying a gnat on the @ss of a elephant matters to the elephant.

    It's psychology/sociology. (none / 0) (#42)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 02:28:01 PM EST
    Part of the whole greenhouse gas & fossil fuel conundrum is breaking it down into pieces small enough for people to feel they have some power over it and that their actions do have an effect.

    The other part is making it a group/societal effort so that people feel they are part of something bigger than themselves.  (See the Obama "Yes we can!" campaign for the rhetoric.  See the Gore "We can solve it." campaign for substance.)

    The government's job is to get up there on the bully pulpit and lay down the law and provide leadership.  Shared sacrifice is more palatable than individual hardship.

    We did it for WWII with the metal drives and rationing.  We did it for Victory! and to Support The Troops!  Individual contributions are important, but we need a critical mass.  We need to push that Overton window away from "You deserve it!  Buy MORE!" to something more sane and sustainable.


    What I'd like to know is (none / 0) (#45)
    by cib on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 03:12:23 PM EST
     What is "sane and sustainable"?

    I'd really like to know, as I see these terms being bandied about alot. I suspect the people using them have different definitions. What is yours?


    "It's psychology/sociology. " (none / 0) (#49)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 04:44:59 PM EST
    That it is. Be nice if it was a solution to the problem.

    Horse And Buggy (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by squeaky on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 02:04:18 PM EST
    Use the ethanol corn for feed and use the manure for winter heat. Much more noisy than cars though, in the city. ANd the whips, hard to listen to.

    It's true: Time really is money (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jim J on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 07:46:00 AM EST
    Most people's time is too valuable to take three and a half hours to make a trip that currently takes only two.

    My math may be rusty.... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by EL seattle on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 08:42:59 AM EST
    ... but if it takes "three and a half hours to make a trip" at 55, wouldn't that be about a 185 mile trip?  

    And if that 185 mile trip "currently takes only two" hours, doesn't that require an average speed of over 90 mph?


    Have you been on the I-5 (5.00 / 0) (#16)
    by tree on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:08:49 AM EST
    through the central California valley lately? You can speed along at 85(something I of course never do) and find yourself eating dust as others whiz past you.

    Us plain folk (none / 0) (#20)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:25:31 AM EST
    out in Ohio don't drive like that.  And our friendly state troopers help us to obey the law.

    Perhaps y'all need a little less selective law enforcement.  At the rate Californians speed, you could balance your budget on speeding tickets alone!  


    We're a lot bigger state with a lot more roads (none / 0) (#24)
    by tree on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:41:12 AM EST
    to patrol. More enforcement might mean lower speeds but it wouldn't help the budget crunch for more than a few weeks before everyone knew what the new enforcement was dictating.

     Presently, in the places that have more patrolling, simply having the CHP sit along the highway or cruise an area helps to keep the speed down. Thus no  or few tickets to fill the coffers. But they can't be everywhere.


    Just kidding. (none / 0) (#25)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:49:16 AM EST
    The Cali budget was on NPR again this morning.  Ohio has plenty of economic problems of its own - we just don't get the same media coverage.

    I hear ya. (none / 0) (#36)
    by tree on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 11:56:30 AM EST
    Sadly, most states are hurting.

    Oh. Snap. (none / 0) (#37)
    by Jim J on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 12:11:02 PM EST
    What a "zinger."

    55 is not all it is cracked up to be (none / 0) (#4)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 07:49:59 AM EST

    Yes, one car making a trip at 55 will use a bit less gas on average than one going 65.  However thats not all there is to it.  Here are just some of the problems

    1. With a 55 speed limit, uban rush hour traffic will jam up sooner and that stop/go travel has the worst mileage of all.  

    2. It will make goods delivered by truck more costly and require more trucks on the road to deliver the the same quantity.  This problem could be reduced somewhat by allowing truck drivers more time on the road and reducing mandatory rest times, but this has an adverse impact on safety.  It is probably fair to say that the 55 would raise the price of food almost immediately.

    3. Partial compliance, particularly in rural areas, will result in more dangerous driving conditions as some drivers do 55 and some stay at 65 or 70.  Everyone going the same speed is the safest.

    4. This is a diversion.  The pols have placed restrictions on the supply of petroleum that cause prices to be higher than they would be otherwise.  The 55 is an attempt to shift blame for the consequences of the policy choice to restrict supply to drivers.  Until they take steps to increase supply, they are not serious about dealing with the issue.

    I think (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by tek on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 07:56:05 AM EST
    this is backward thinking.  The problems mentioned here are problems that a visionary government and society need to resolve.  We need to not live lifestyles that require rush hour.  We do need to start driving 55, there's not fuel to support high speeds.  Americans have to start facing tough facts.  We must have alternate fuel and we must live differently.

    Yikes (none / 0) (#10)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:34:55 AM EST
    We need to not live lifestyles that require rush hour.

    Yes it would be really nice if we could all sleep til noon, go to work at one, take an hour off for lunch, and then at two we're done.  Utopia is fun to dream about, but human attempts at building Utopia have universally failed.  

    In any case speak for yourself.  My manufacturing job requires me and my workmates to be on the job at about the same time.  And yes, I wish everyone else would go to and from work at much different times, but then so do they.  

    We do need to start driving 55, there's not fuel to support high speeds.

    This assertion needs proof.  A 55 mph speed limit might use more fuel than a 65 mph speed limit due to more traffic jams and more trucks on the road.

    The assertion that we don't have enough fuel is BS.  The planet has enough hydrocarbon fuel for a century or more.  What is needed is removal of artificial restrictions on bringing it to matket.

    We must have alternate fuel and we must live differently.

    Those higher cost alternative fuels you crave will create living differently in the form of a lower standard of living for everyone.  More poverty is not a good way to address this issue.


    There's an easy way (none / 0) (#12)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:00:53 AM EST
    to minimize poverty.  Mandatory birth control for everybody!

    It's all about Econ 101 - Limited Resources.  The more of us there are consuming the same pool of limited resources, the more resource poor we will all be.  So our options are pretty simple - the more we are, the poorer we will be.  The fewer there are of us, the more resources are available there are for everybody. In theory.

    In reality, people/nations will do whatever it takes to grab the biggest share of resources for themselves including going to war.  Kill your competitors and take their resources - it's a two fer.  


    Not staying home (none / 0) (#13)
    by waldenpond on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:04:33 AM EST
    It means getting people to work in a more efficient manner.  If corps are going to be bundled together, rush hour traffic can be reduced through mass transit.  Working from home would reduce traffic.  Staggered work hours still demand parking but would reduce rush hour traffic.

    If traffic doesn't bunch up when everyone goes 65, why would it at 55?  Someone mentioned that if fuel reduction was the goal, why not 0.  Under your theory, a lower speed (55) would cause traffic jams.  If that is what causes traffic jams, why not drive 200?


    Traffic jams (none / 0) (#26)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 10:56:23 AM EST
    If traffic doesn't bunch up when everyone goes 65, why would it at 55?

    A traffic jam occurs when vehicles enter the roadway faster than they can leave.  So, the slower you leave the more lilely the jam.  

    Another way to look at it is number of vehicles on the road.  If you need to go 32.5 miles you will be on the road for 30.00 minutes at 65mph, but at 55mph you will be on the road 35.45 minutes.  With each vehicle being on the road 18% longer there will be about 18% more vehicles on the road at any one time.  This is a prescription for traffic jams and wasted fuel.

    To illustrate how higher speed limits reduce congestion, imagine if it were possible to enter, travel, and exit the freeway at the speed of light.  10,000 vehicles could theoretically each make an 18.6 mile trip within one second, but with only one vehicle on the road at a time.


    Subtract 10% of all vehicles (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by Fabian on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 02:13:12 PM EST
    and you have a perfectly good solution as well.

    You conveniently ignored bottlenecks.  My husband did a project in college.  It sounded simple: Maximize the through put of a given process.  It turns out there were always bottle necks in the process which processed the input at a speed lower than the input could be supplied and the output removed.  That's your real limiting factor - not the average over the road speed.  The solution is to "tune" the process so that the bottleneck doesn't create additional problems.  It's just general system theory.  Works on power grids, traffic control, production lines and any real time system.

    Just imagine a place on your daily commute where traffic inevitably slows to a crawl or perhaps all the way down to a full stop.  It's usually at an exit or entrance point, or sometimes at a merge.  The highway speed could be 110 mph, but the effective capacity is restricted by the entrance/exit rate.  In an ideal system, people would enter and exit a highway at the average highway speed and traffic would never slow down.  In the real world, things don't work that way.  


    Exactly (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by eric on Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 02:31:24 PM EST
    For me, the bottle neck was created by the fact that a major interstate bridge fell into the Mississippi river and all of the traffic is detoured onto my route.

    You can be cruising along at full speed but inevitably, the bottleneck will get you.  Once you are past it, it's back up to highway speed.